About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

De Facto Segregation Alive and Well in Allentown

A handy new online tool, Zipskinny, makes it possible to pull up all kinds of demographic data about specific zip codes. I've tried it with three different zip codes in Allentown, and they seem like three different cities. Allentown's minorities, of course, occupy its poorest neighborhoods, as the servant class should. Allentown claims to be a diverse community, but it appears that we whites in the ruling class occupy the swankier neighborhoods. De facto segregation, commonly thought to be a product of the suburbs, is alive and well inside the city limits, too.

Zip Code 18104 - West End. Shangi La. Only 5.9% of the population is below the poverty line, and it's lilly white - 92.4%. Geez, it's almost as white as it is here in Nazareth.

Zip code 18102 -Life along the Lehigh River is a lot tougher. Twenty-five percent of the population here is below the poverty line, and it's only half white.

Zip Code 18101 - Downtown Hamilton Street Area: This is more like a third world country than an American community. Forty per cent of the population is below the poverty line, and 66% of the population is nonwhite.
Update: My Allentown comparisons, using zip code 18104, is unfair. That zip apparently also includes much of South Whitehall Township, and a commenter quickly nailed me on that error. My intention was to focus on communities within Allentown.


Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

I have to say bernie that although I agree with the sentiment of this post I think that its unfair to pin that on Allentown. De facto segregation is a sad fact in the entire country, as economic opportunity for people of color is considerably less than it is for whites. This is not just an Allentown problem. You could compare the same demographic information for Easton's College Hill neighborhood and the West Ward, or Bethlehem's South Side or the Historic District. You would find the same results.

Bernie O'Hare said...


De Facto segregation is, as you say, a sad reality. We all know about the white diaspora from the cities, which started back in the 50s. But what stuns me is to see such a blatant disparity within a city. I was a little shocked to see the disparity between west side and the smaller downtown.

I can't make a comparison in Easton bc everything is one zip code. Bethelehem's north side, 18018, is 85% white and 7.5% of its population is below the poverty level. Its south side, 18015, is 68% white and 18.8% below poverty.

As you can readily see, the disparity is actually much more severe in Allentown. I was a little shocked.

Blue Coyote said...

Interesting, how you use sarcasm and an internet site for reverse discrimination (Adversity.Net, for victims of reverse discrimination) for the definition of defacto segregation. I am sure Asians in the internment camps of western United States would respectfully disagree with the premise. And I thought the country was blue and red!?

the observer said...


figures don't lie and liars figure

it is unfair to compare 18104 to 18102 since 18104 goes all the way past kmart on tilghman street. that is most of south whitehall and some of upper mac. you need to look at the zip code area. not just the name allentown. look what beth. twsp zip is. then compare apple to apples. fyi 18104 starts on the west side of 17th st since the city limits are basically 30th st. that is not a very large area!

not so casual observer said...

The fact is that these areas were not always below the poverty line. They were generations of working middleclass families living there. Most of those families have sold their homes(at a great loss) becasue the poverty line has moved in on them, along with crime, unfamiliar cultures, and a complete lack of civility. What you see on the graph has taken over the areas, they are a result not a cause

The question is not one of defacto segregation but one of a failure of the those below the povry line to assimilate into society. It is the same across the nation, i.e.:Detroit, Camden, NO, Atlanta and Oakland.
Strong families,assimilation and education are the answers here. The tools are there; we cannot force success on any person. Some of our greatest people have come from tough circumstances.

It was hardwork and strong family influence that brough them a better life and to a "man" they left those neighborhoods behind.

THere is a personal responsibilty that the government cannot replace with cash, nor should it try. Money is not pride.

Anonymous said...

you left out 18109 and 18103 the east side and the south side respectively.

Joe said...

Are you kidding me, a community that is 60% white, or even 40%, and the balance minority is hardly segregated. Allentown is the most culturally and economically diverse community in the valley hands down.

You are trying to hard.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Are you kidding me, a community that is 60% white, or even 40%, and the balance minority is hardly segregated. Allentown is the most culturally and economically diverse community in the valley hands down.

How about a community that is 92% white? is that diversity?

Bernie O'Hare said...

it is unfair to compare 18104 to 18102 since 18104 goes all the way past kmart on tilghman street. that is most of south whitehall and some of upper mac

Fair enough.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The question is not one of defacto segregation but one of a failure of the those below the povry line to assimilate into society. It is the same across the nation, i.e.:Detroit, Camden, NO, Atlanta and Oakland.

It is still considered de fact segrergation. You may be absolutely right about why it exists, but it does exist, and in the cities, too.

I was startled by the high disparity between 18104 and other areas in Allentown, but may have been mistaken. As someone points out 18104 also includes a lot of south whitehall. I was trying to keep it in the city.

Anonymous said...

In reality this analysis means nothing.

Allentown is not the whole of any community or local economy, but only a sizable fraction of the Lehigh valley community and economy.

It's not like all the workers living in center city are making their wealthy landlords and business owners rich who live a few blocks west in the West End.

Bernie O'Hare said...


I checked out 18104 on a zip code map and you're right. I have posted an update to note my mistake.

The reason I posted this is because I was shocked at the disparity of neighborhoods within the city, which is greater than Bethlehem. But it turns out that the zip code that is the whitest also does include some of S Whitehall.

Bernie O'Hare said...

In reality this analysis means nothing.

You are right. I pretty much blew it bc I incorrectly assumed 18104 was wholly within A-town.

I can't get away with anything!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:46, 181099 is not yet being included in Zipskinny. But 18103 is. The community there is 10% below the poverty line and 76% white.

gb said...

if it includes south whitehall/upper mac, I think you can still call it de facto segregation and point out that it has nothing to do with allentown but the urban/suburban divide that exists in Pennsylvania. Even people in different zip codes under the same city name are isolated. I'm sure if you compared Northampton/Nazareth/Emmaus to the townships immediately surrounding it you would find similar results to the ones that Bernie pointed out.

Pennsylvania has devolved into people intentionally and willfully isolating themselves from other communities. And the folks in Harrisburg (who make the planning laws and encourage this behavior) are owned by the special interests who make sick amounts of cash off of this system. What's worse is that we try to justify it. I had to get away from "those" people.

This has nothing to do with Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. They exhibit symptoms of a problem that is much larger and can't be solved until we reprioritize the value of strong communities. If we want stronger communities, we need to emphasize that values and tell the stories associated with those strong communities that we seek to re-establish.

Bernie O'Hare said...


I agree with you. De Facto segregation does exist. But it would have been more accurate for me to say it is alive and well in the LV than to say it is alive and well in Allentown. I mistakenly assumed that 18104 was wholly within Allentown.

RS said...

Try 18066 out in the northwest corner of Lehigh County. It's 97.4% white.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

Bernie, just for s & g, I pulled info based on the census tract which is "our west end neighborhood"s home, where I and a big handful of the other Bloggers come from. Our census tract goes from 17th street to 22nd street, and from Roth Avenue to Liberty Street.

Median Household Income is $42,983. (god i wish) Just over 80% of the population is white.

for comparison:
cencus tract 001000 which goes from N. Penn Street (btw. 4th & 5th) to N. Hall Street (btw. 7th and 8th) and from Linden Street to Liberty Street:

Median Household Income is $20,514. 46% of the population is white.

cencus tract 001800 which goes from N. Hall Street to N. 12th Street and between Linden and Gordon/Liberty, and is by and large the Old Allentown Historic District looks like this:

Median Household is $25,263 and 60% are white.

Bethlehem is next!

Bernie O'Hare said...


There are still disparities within Allentown itself, but they are much lower than I thought when I did that zip code analysis. Of course, as gb notes, there is a big disparity within the LV, and that's actually a nationwide statistic.

Dottie said...


I live in 18104, just barely, but my son's school(Muhlenberg) is very diverse. They do bus kids from the inner city out to Muhlenberg, and kids at 15th and 16th, a different zip code, attend the school.

So, my point is that even though 18104 may be mostly white, the white kids are at least exposed to other races and cultures and I think that is a good thing in Allentown.

michael molovinsky said...

i don't know about the census and zip codes, but bernies premise was correct. allentown is two different cities, with the core being minority and the fringes being white. the 18104 portion of the city is separated by the fairgrounds, parks, college, hospitals and other institutional barriers, and also architecturally and economically by mostly single family houses vs. mostly row houses. there has been this economic divide in allentown for 60 years, the main difference now is that people on the east side of the line are much poorer than before; before it was a working middle class area.

Anonymous said...

I can understand what you're trying to prove here Bernie, but I don't agree with the data that you're using. My previous career was in market research, and we used census data heavily to promote the Lehigh Valley. (You can prove anything with statistics, it's just a matter of spin). Other than your 18104 mistake (we've all made it), it's important to note that zip codes are not designed for statistical analysis, they're designed to facilitate mail delivery. As such, the Census Bureau is effectively estimating the contents of those areas based on census tract and block group. LOLV's analysis is more accurate, but remember this is all from the 2000 census, and is effectively 9 years old at this point. I think we'd see the disparity between Allentown neighborhoods has shrunk in those years (and I don't think income went up). And, this is all free data from the Census Bureau, and they take quite a few liberties in their methodology to keep it free. I think you'd see quite a difference if you purchase the information (especially with market updates from companies like Claritas).

Just trying to lend some perspective as to what you're actually showing here. Too often we throw statistics around without the proper education behind it and accept them as 100% true, when it's pretty much just a guessing game.

-Friendly Neighborhood Researcher

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

Census Tract 011200, which is south side (non lehigh), goes from rt 412 to Polk Street, and from S. Mountain Drive to E 3rd Street:

MHI, $25,701, 59% white.

Census Tract 010800, which is north side (historic downtown bethlehem's neighborhood), goes from Linden Street to 378 and from Lehigh Street to Union Street:

MHI $27,877, 89% white.

Census tract 010200, which goes from Linden Street to Schoenersville and from 22 to Illicks Mill* (ish, this is a choppy census tract):

MHI $78,516, 94% white.

to be fair, I'll compare this with the deeper west end of Allentown, since obviously this census tract is pretty affluent....

Census tract 002303, which is Allentown's Deep West End and Rose Garden neighborhoods (as well as South Whitehall Township's "springhouse" neighborhood, god damn south whitehall):

MHI is $56,370 and 92% white.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Friendly Neighborhood Researcher,

Your point is well taken, and I admit my error re 18104.

Joe said...

It should be noted that Springhouse Rd from Broadway all the way up to Trexler Blvd (Trexler Park, Wegmans, and Estates areas) are all in Allentown.

Bernie O'Hare said...


The census information you have produced does show, in my view, a racial divide. It is not as blatant as I thought when I mistakenly assumed that 18104 is wholly within Allentown, but it certainly exists, and on a LV wide basis.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

Joe, although Allentown includes the golf course and Trexler Park, and a few surrounding blocks, it does not extend as far as springhouse road EXCEPT on the stretch of springhouse which runs alongside Trexler park (it does not include Wegmans or the developments immediately behind wegmans accross the street from Trexler Park. Similarly, at the north end of that boundary, it does not extend as far as Trexler Road, so the homes built accross from the golf course are not a part of the city either.

Joe said...


I'm sorry but you are wrong. All of those housing developments, Wegmans, Trexler Park Apartments, the Estates, Ruby Tuesday's, and the new Starbucks are all in the city of Allentown. This was all Mayor Heydt's big project when he was in office.

County assessment records will confirm this.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

Bernie - that was my point. I think that there is a huge racial and class divide (which are of course, linked). But the same can be said for cities all over the country. My only point was that I think its unfair to pin the problem of de facto segregation on Allentown any more than any other city either in the lehigh valley or outside this area.

Allentown has a considerably higher minority population than any of the other LV cities, both in numbers and in percentages:

Allentown: 72.5% white (probably has gone down since the 2000 census, I guess we'll find out in 3 years), total non-white population is 29,271

Bethlehem: 81.8% white, total non-white population is 12,947
Easton: 78.5% white, total non-white population is 5,653.

and so the result is an "even more so" effect on the disparities which exist all over the valley. But its unfair to single Allentown out.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...


you may be right, the map I am using is from 2000.

Bernie O'Hare said...


1) Joe is right. I made that mistake once before w/ a post about Jenn Mann. If you go to Lehigh Couty's web site and look at the assessment records, you'll see it for yourself.

2) The racial divide is most pronounced in Allentown, especially if you look at its downtown. It's just not as blatant as I originally thought. And it is a much wider problem. But we all knew that, right? In addition to posting an update, I've decided to put up a new post that is a little more accurate. I'd include your beneficial census data, which I appreciated, but have no links.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

I don't have the time to go back and pull the links but it all comes from the census.gov website

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

also I use GIS maps so I'm not sure that the links would work for anyone without GIS. Sorry I'll see if I can find a linkable source!

Bernie O'Hare said...


I like to post links to things like that and will track them down if I do another post on this topic. You see, someone has told me back channel that there is an alarming, and fairly recent, increase in poverty within Allentown. I'm told there is a report about it and I'm I'm trying to get my hands on the data so I can judge for myself if this is true. If it is, there probably will be a correlation to the census data you provided.

Anonymous said...


Why not apply this logic to a mostly white city. Example - Wilkes-Barre, or Scranton. Each has lost 1/2 their population since 1940, but each city is 90+% white. It can be said that folks from these cities "fled", but from what? Not monorities. Did they flee for lack of economic opportunity?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:46,

You're right. In some communities, economic opportunities that previously existed just dried up. My own parents are originally from the coal regions. They left bc of the economy.

I'm sure there are many explanations for what is called "white flight." Some of them are economic. But in some cases, it is also racial.

The remarks that GB made about getting away from "those people?" I've heard those words myself.

Anonymous said...

I think using Scanton or Wilkes Barre as an example is goo for 1/2 of the equation in Allentown.

Luckily, people (many who happen to be minorities) have found Allentown a nice place to live after the locals went south, west, or out into the subdivisions.

Anonymous said...

"The racial divide is most pronounced in Allentown, especially if you look at its downtown"

That is ridiculous. The only reason you are able to make that statement is because minorities hardly exist in the burbs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:59,

You don't think racism accounts for any of it? 1/2 = the economy + 1/2 = minmorities like Allentown?

I agree that there are many explanations for the de facto segregation, but also think racism is one of them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The racial divide is most pronounced in Allentown, especially if you look at its downtown"

That is ridiculous. The only reason you are able to make that statement is because minorities hardly exist in the burbs.

And that's why we have the racial divide. There is de facto segregation. The question is - why? Is it purely economic, purely racial, or a mix?

Anonymous said...

You make is sound like the white people in Allentown are segregating themselves when in reality the white people in A-town are probably the most tolerant of all in the valley.

Why would you live in Allentown anywhere if you hate people of color?

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

I think its really difficult to extricate racial inequality from economic and social opportunity. Obviously this is a stereotype and there are huge exceptions, but in our country as a general rule of thumb, anyone can be poor, but only white people can be rich. I think the reasons for white flight in a place like Allentown has to do both with racism and xenophobia and also with a shift in economic opportunity. People stopped working in downtown and started working in the industrial parks out in the 'burbs. The schools were neglected and all of the sudden no one wanted to send their brats to the center city schools (which I guess on some abstract level I understand. I'm sure if I had kids I would want the best education possible for them). Plus, on a bigger societal level we have been told for 50 years that bigger is better and that more cars are better than less cars and a big yard is better than a playground, etc....

Anonymous said...

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...
"I think its really difficult to extricate racial inequality from economic and social opportunity. Obviously this is a stereotype and there are huge exceptions, but in our country as a general rule of thumb, anyone can be poor, but only white people can be rich."

Really? I could not disagree more! America is a free country and its citizens are free to succeed and they are free to fail. Not all successful people are white and not all failures are minorities. People of all colors need to become responsible...for their successes and if they fail. Question: Where do middle-upper mid class blacks live? Do they choose to live in poor neighborhoods alongside poor blacks? Not bloody likely.... they live in mostly white neighborhoods, where their income/socio-economic equals reside. It's less about race and more about socio-economic background, if you insist on trying to explain "white flight" or the burgeoning suburbs. The suburbs are succeeding at the expense of cities that fail to see the big picture. While Bethlehem was creating a historic district and was preparing for life after Bethlehem Steel, Allentown played fat, dumb and ignorant. Today, too much of Allentown is poor, and too many homes in center city are divied up into apartments, attracting....that's right, more poor folks. Forget the fact that they happen to be latino...that does not matter as much as the socio-economic reality here. Poor of any color translates into destitute cities. Again, see Wilkes-Barre. It is overwhelmingly white and it is POOR. Kids graduate HS and go where opportunities exist. Kids who attend Kings, Wilkes Colleges, leave after four years. All that's left, old, poor white folks.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

um yeah.... when I said "anyone can be poor" i meant anyone can be poor!

If our society provided a level playing field for people of different skin colors or ethnic backgrounds we would not see the continuing disparity that exists today. I am talking about a SYSTEMIC problem that can't be overcome by someone who wants to attain the american dream.

I have other things to do so let me pre-emptively have this argument. Someone will say that slavery ended 150 years ago and someone else will say something about civil rights. None of that flies with me, so I will come back and disagree.

My arguments will be about redlining, segregated schools being followed by schools whose resources are determined by the wealth of the students' families who attend those schools (see redlining for a cyclical theme), and persistent racism in our police departments and justice system.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:45, 1:21,

I'd certainly disagree w/ the assessment that only whites are rich.

But I also disagree w/ the suggestion that all white flight is caused by economic factors.

Racism, like it or not, is actually part of the reason. In NC's courthouse, the shelves are full of deeds containing restrictive covenants that prohibit sales to minorities. Of course, these are deeds mostly to developments in the 'burbs and also include Easton's college hill section. The same is true of LC. For some reason, nobody liked Italians, either. I'll copy one or two and post them sometime tomorrow.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...


see page 4 for the table which shows that blacks have a median household income of 62% that of non-hispanic whites. Hispanics have a median household income of 70% that of non-hispanic whites.

see page 10 for the table which shows that non-hispanic whites make up 44% of people who live in poverty (anyone can be poor), but only 10.8% of white people live under the poverty line.

Contrastingly, blacks only make up 25% of people who live in poverty, but (wait for it).... almost 25% of blacks live in poverty. That's more than TWICE the poverty rate of non-hispanic whites. Similarly, hispanics also represent 25% of the people living in poverty, but just over 21% of hispanics are living in poverty. Again, more than double the poverty rate among non-hispanic whites.

lets look at the "not everyone can be rich" side.
same census report, looking at income in 2004.

Of the entire population, all races, 18.3% had household incomes between $50,000 and 74,999. 11% had household incomes between $75K and 99,999. 15.7% had household incomes $100K and over.

Of the all-white, non hispanic population houshold income for those same income brackets (in order), was 19.1%, 12.1%, and 18%. So, you can see that is slightly better than the national average.

Of the all-black population, household income for those same income brackets is 14.7% (not bad not bad), 7.2% and 6.7%. That means that a black household is almost 1/3 as likely to have a household income over 100K as a white household is. If they gave the figures for even higher income brackets I bet its even less. I know that there are only 2 black billionaires in the entire WORLD out of a total of 946 total billionaires. so.

hispanics, same brackets: 16.5% (way to go middle class!), 7.7%, and 8%. Slightly better than blacks but still hugely disparate from non-hispanic whites.

Anonymous said...

LOLV - Wow, I am impressed!

Long ago I learned not to argue with anyone who buys printer's ink by the barrel. OK, you've made your point...you are liberal and have a soft spot in the heart for all minorities, despite anything else you may hear.

My final word is this - as Bernie stated, many groups who came to America were discriminated against. Most of them rose above it, more or less. They had far fewer liberals (like you) taking their cause and providing bi-lingual signage and making excuses left and right. They just hunkered down and made something of themselves. Many people who are poor in this country are poor for reasons other than race. You choose to believe something else, so be it.... that's what is great about America.

Anonymous said...

Bernardo -

I did not mean to infer that "all" flight from cities was for socio-economic reasons...only that it's a ridiculous assumption to make as LOLV seems to make when she states that flight is primarily race-based. It's way too easy to blame this on race. It is also polarizing and Allentown has enough trouble. The facts regarding Wilkes-Barre seem to poke enormous holes in her thesis. People of any color will choose to live where they can afford to live, in the "best" neighborhood that they can afford. It was true of my immigrant grandparents, it is true of latinos and blacks who I personally know today. They scrimp, save, dream and then try to move on up, just like the Jeffersons. LOLV might be too young to know anything about this, only because she lacks real life experience that other commentators have. Her opinion would offend the "minorities" I know, who have pulled themselves up into middle class status. They would scoff at her assertion that the deck is stacked against them, because they know better. Success comes to those who work at it, regardless of background. And I'm conservative!

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

I'm not saying white flight is race based (although hello its named white flight for a reason). I'm saying that POVERTY AND RACE ARE LINKED and if you think that the census information is somehow mis-leading I suggest you turn your fox news up a little bit higher and convince yourself that everyone's got an equal shot at success. Not to open a whole other can of worms, but lets start with one of the best ways to create opportunity. Do you know what the graduation rate is in the Allentown School District? How about compared to Parkland School District? Do you think that parkland students are innately more intelligent? More driven to succeed? What makes you think that? That the are white? That they are rich?

it just so happens that publicschoolreview.com provides some handy statistics, which apparently you don't think are actual indicators of reality.

Parkland School District is 89% white, and has a graduation rate of 97%.

Allentown School District (all hail the might canaries), is 29% white. The graduation rate is 62%.

PSD spends $10,450 per student, ASD spends $8,844.

. but the playing field is level, and the deck is not stacked.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

and more, I'm sorry I can't help myself.

Seeing that there is a clear disparity between whites and non-whites does not make a "soft spot." Not everything is in the numbers, but if you can read the numbers and tell me that race and economic opportunity are not linked, then I would like to smoke what you smoke. It must be psychedelic.

I love that the example of "moving on up" is THE JEFFERSONS WHO ARE FICTIONAL. Of course there are families and individuals of color who are able to improve their status in life - but there are hundreds of thousands who can't because the opportunity is denied to them.

Comparing the bigotry and hurdles faced by the irish, the jews, and the italians when they immigrated here at the turn of the 20th century is not even CLOSE to comparing what exists today. I honestly do not even have enough energy in the world to give a history lesson of such magnitude, but... you really don't understand the difference between immigrant populations coming into a country which was still in the early stages of democracy, development, and capitalism and coming into an advanced capitalist political economy? my mind is blown by that lack of capacity for broader contextual understanding.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To all who participated in this discussion:

This was probably one of my worst research jobs ever. And it deals with several sensitive subjects, from Allentown (a touchy subject in Blogistan) to racism.

But despite that, those who commented, including those who pointed out my errors, were all very instructive. I learned a lot today.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who participated in a very beneficial conversation, at least to me. I was pleasantly surprised to see no one get personal, especially given the subject matter. Those who don't feel that racism has very much to do with de facto segregation really made their case well, and LOLV and I have tangled enough over other matters for me to know she can hold her own, and she has the passion of youth. Overall, this was one of the best discussions ever on this blog.

In addition to the insights provided here, I got some information today back channel that I hope to share soon on this topic. I was held up by some late-breaking news about the news - The Morning Call is making changes, and I had to post that. But I hope to return to this topic soon.

Anonymous said...

We live in the 18104 zip, less than a half mile from South Whitehall and find segregation is not true in this neighborhood. Within sight of our house there are two hispanic residences, and two African American residences. While not a large percentage of the neighborhood population, their presence is significant.